Tag Archive | "nuclear weapons"

North Korea: Nuclear Tests, Threats, & Missile Launches

“Perpetual peace is guaranteed by no less an authority than the great artist Nature herself.” – Immanuel Kant[1]

Source: South Korea’s Defense Ministry

Is there still hope for peace as North Korea advances its nuclear agenda? As the Second World War ended, the US and the Soviet Union divided Korea in half and the Korean War deepened the divide.[2] Today, North Korea is accelerating the development of its nuclear program.[3] Its motivation for testing is “rooted in a desire for political autonomy, national prestige and military strength.”[4] This article aims to answer: How does North Korea’s nuclear program work and what is involved in U.S. defense? How has the international community responded to North Korea’s tests and threats? What legal arguments can we make regarding North Korea’s recent actions? And should we proceed militarily or diplomatically?

A Recent Timeline

In July 2017, North Korea successfully tested an inter-continental ballistic missile (“ICBM”), which appeared capable of hitting Alaska and Hawaii.[5] Then, North Korea tested a missile capable of hitting California.[6] In response to these ballistic missile tests, the United Nations Security Council adopted sanctions against North Korea.[7]

By August, President Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”[8] Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, responded with a threat of an “enveloping fire” around Guam, an American territory in the Western Pacific.[9] Trump then claimed his “fire and fury” statement was not enough.[10] He further stated that if North Korea acts “unwisely,” the US military is “locked and loaded.”[11]

Although North Korea did not fire a missile over Guam, North Korea did conduct a ballistic missile test over the northern island of Hokkaido at the end of August.[12] In the first week of September, North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test, which it claims is a hydrogen bomb that could be attached to an ICBM.[13] After the test, Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council, Kim Jong-un is “begging for war.”[14]

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly, President Trump vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if it threatened the United States.[15] In a public statement responding to Trump, Mr. Kim vowed to take the “highest level of hardline countermeasure in history.”[16] President Trump told Secretary of State Tillerson that talking with North Korea is a waste of time.[17] Trump later emphasized, “only one thing will work.”[18] This October, North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador warned that the Korean Peninsula “has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment.”[19]

A Breakdown of the North Korean ICBM and U.S. Interceptors

There are 4 main kinds of missiles: short range, medium range, intermediate, and ICBM.[20] For an ICBM to reach its desired destination, it needs to go beyond the atmosphere and then come back down.[21] North Korea’s second ICBM test appeared to have the potential to reach the West Coast, and potentially Denver and Chicago.[22] While North Korea’s main engine is its most reliable model to date, its main challenge is avoiding a burnt nuclear warhead before it hits the atmosphere.[23] To overcome that challenge, North Korea needs a reentry vehicle that acts like a shield.[24] However, manufacturing defects could cause the warhead to go off course.[25]

Nevertheless, the U.S. believes North Korea has created a warhead small enough to fit on the ICBM, ensuring a longer range.[26] Further, analysis reveals that North Korea’s latest underground nuclear test suggests a “two-stage thermonuclear” bomb larger than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[27] Nuclear weapons “depend on the splitting apart, or fission, of atoms for their explosive power.” That splitting apart is just the beginning for thermonuclear weapons.[28]

To intercept an ICBM, the U.S. would need censors to track the warheads, launchers to fire interceptors, and missiles that can destroy the warheads.[29] The U.S. has two main types of defense: theater, which is regional, and homeland defense.[30] The former involves Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in Guam and South Korea along with 19 U.S. warships in the Pacific.[31] While these are good for short or medium range missiles, U.S. interceptors have not had a consistent success rate concerning target missiles.[32] When a nuclear warhead separates from a missile in space, it becomes difficult to distinguish it from debris or potential decoys.[33] Therefore, there is reason to worry about the interceptors used for U.S. homeland defense.

International Responses  

While most of the hope for North Korea to terminate its nuclear program by Trump and his predecessors has been in China, their hope is based on three unfounded assumptions. First, their hope assumes outside influence could persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons.[34] Second, China could exercise such an influence.[35] Third, China will influence North Korea once China is properly persuaded.[36]

What can China do? According to John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, China can keep decreasing its trade and investment relations with North Korea.[37] However, such actions will not break Kim Jong-un because “the North Korean system is especially good at…absorbing pain.”[38] Moreover, sanctions by China have either made little change or backfired, leading to embarrassment for China.[39] China is in a delicate position with the risk of war at its border, the arrival of American troops at its doorstep, and the flooding of North Korean refugees into its mainland.[40] At this point, China says it will close business joint ventures with North Korea, in line with the latest United Nations sanctions.[41]

Japan and South Korea have differing views on how to deal with North Korea. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe deemed North Korea’s missile launch over Japan’s territory as “reckless” and a “serious and grave threat.”[42] Japan and the U.S. plan to work together to increase pressure on North Korea.[43] Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is firmly against a military strike on North Korea.[44] He argues that diplomacy and economic sanctions are the means to stop North Korea’s nuclear advancement.[45] Paik Hak-soon, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute, a think tank south of Seoul, states that a nuclear South Korea is “politically untenable.”[46] While South Korea is afraid the North will use its nuclear program to divide the U.S. and its regional allies, the U.S. has signaled that South Korea is safe under their “nuclear umbrella.”[47]

Russia is at odds with Germany and France about sanctions on North Korea. Vladimir Putin is unconvinced of the effect of sanctions, claiming North Korea would “eat grass” before giving up their nuclear program.[48] However, the United States did manage to compromise with Russia before imposing the new set of sanctions on North Korea.[49] The sanctions limit crude and refined oil exports to North Korea, limit prohibited and refined petroleum sales, and ban all North Korean textile exports.[50]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel along with President Emannuel Macron of France put out a statement supporting stronger European Union sanctions against North Korea after its latest nuclear test.[51] Merkel is prepared to play a role in a diplomatic initiative, suggesting the Iran nuclear agreement could provide a model.[52] She emphasized, “A new arms race starting in the region would not be in anyone’s interests.”[53]

The Non-Proliferation Treaty

Non-Proliferation Treaty Objectives

The objective of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (“NPT”) is to “prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.”[54] The NPT prohibits non-nuclear weapon state parties from developing nuclear weapons.[55] While the five de jure nuclear weapons states (France, China, Russia, United States, and United Kingdom) are exempted from this prohibition, Article VI requires them to eventually disarm.[56] While India, Israel, and Pakistan are considered de facto nuclear weapon states, they are not party to the NPT. Uniquely, North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003.[57] The question remains: did North Korea violate international law by withdrawing from the NPT?

Pacta Sunt Servanda

The first possibility is that North Korea violated the principle laid out in Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (“VCLT”).[58] Article 26 requires states to carry out their international treaty obligations in good faith under the principle of pacta sunt servanda.[59] However, a state can only really be bound to an international treaty if it consents. North Korea has left the NPT, which could mean that it no longer consents to stop developing its nuclear program.

Procedure for NPT Withdrawal

The second possibility is that North Korea violated a procedural obligation of the NPT such as the obligation laid out in Article X.[60] States have a sovereign right to withdraw from the NPT.[61] However, for a State to withdraw, it must give three-months advance notice to all other parties to the Treaty and the UN Security Council.[62] The State must also include “a statement of extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests” and requiring it to withdraw.[63] North Korea did put out a public statement of withdrawal noting, “[u]nder the grave situation where our state’s supreme interests are most seriously threatened, the D.P.R.K. government adopts the following decisions to protect the sovereignty of the country and the nation and their right to existence and dignity.”[64] Further, claims brought to the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) are rarely brought on procedure alone. North Korea did mention in the statement that they had “no intention to produce nuclear weapons” or use nuclear energy beyond “peaceful purposes.”[65]

Estoppel

The third possibility is an estoppel argument, which falls under general principles of law. Article 38(1)(c) of the ICJ’s Statute recognizes general principles as a secondary source of law and applies these principles when the law is not clear.[66] These principles are legal norms that include equity, estoppel, and laches.[67] Estoppel requires a State to act consistently in its representation of a factual or legal issue. However, in its Serbian Loans case, the ICJ’s predecessor stated that a State’s prior statements or acts could only be held against the State if they were “clear and unequivocal.”[68] North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since its public withdrawal and intent not to produce nuclear weapons. While estoppel appears to be the winning argument for a North Korean violation of international law, estoppel is a secondary source of law and a gap-filler argument. Moreover, another State would have to argue that they relied upon North Korea’s inconsistent acts and accordingly suffered an injury.

Does North Korea Have Obligations to De-Nuclearize outside the NPT?

Customary International Law

There may be other ways to claim that North Korea violated international obligations concerning nuclear weapons, such as obligations under customary international law. Customary international law is binding on all States, formed through widespread and consistent state practice, coupled with opinio juris.[69]

State practice is the physical and verbal acts of States acting in conformity, or not, with a particular norm.[70] State practice must be “extensive and virtually uniform” and include states whose interests would be “specially affected.”[71] Specially affected states, that is the nuclear weapons states, have not acted in conformity with the norm of disarming. Specifically, the United States and Russia have only slightly decreased their stockpiles.[72] Further, according to the ICJ, the NPT does not establish a new rule of customary international law prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons.[73]

Opinio juris is a state’s belief that it has a legal obligation.[74] None of the nuclear weapons states signed the now in force Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, evincing that these states do not believe they have a legal obligation to completely disarm.[75] Further evidence of a lack of opinio juris includes a statement by France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, which declares, “this treaty [banning nuclear weapons] offers no solution to the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, nor does it address other security challenges that make nuclear deterrence necessary.”[76] While the NPT demonstrates an attempt to move towards disarmament and non-proliferation, little evidence supports corresponding customary international law.

Under customary laws of war, jus ad bellum governs conditions in which a State may resort to force.[77] Under jus ad bellum, there is a paradigm called international humanitarian law.[78] A key principle under international humanitarian law is distinction, which requires states to distinguish between legitimate military targets and those who have civilian status.[79] In its advisory opinion, the ICJ noted that mines and chemical weapons inherently violate international humanitarian law.[80] However, the ICJ ultimately concluded that it could not rule out the lawfulness of the use of a nuclear weapon in “extreme circumstances of self defense.”[81] While advisory opinions are not binding, the ICJ opened the door for states to justify their use of atom bombs.[82]

The United Nations Charter: Article 2(4) 

North Korea may have violated the UN Charter. Article 2(4) of the Charter requires states to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”[83] This prohibition is viewed by the international community as an inherent obligation on all States.[84] North Korea’s nuclear tests, missile launches, and verbal threats to launch an armed ICBM aimed at the continental U.S. could constitute a violation of this prohibition. The only exceptions to this prohibition are self-defense and Security Council authorization, which appear to be a hard sell for North Korea after its recent surge in tests and threats.[85]

What Happens Next, a Military Option or Diplomacy?

A military option, or a pre-emptive U.S. strike against North Korea would have devastating consequences. First, the casualties would be in the hundreds of thousands, even millions.[86] Japanese citizens and 10 million South Korean residents are directly in the range of North Korea’s missiles.[87] In addition, 28,000 U.S. servicemen are based in South Korea. Second, the U.S. could risk its alliances with Japan and South Korea.[88] Third, the U.S. could ruin its delicate relationship with China.[89]

Since the risks of a military option are exceedingly high in comparison to the limited benefits, diplomacy may offer the strongest way through increased nuclear action by North Korea. For Former Ambassador to the United Nations and Former National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, just as we practiced tolerance during the Cold War, we can do so again today.[90] Further, negotiation and patience, according to Dr. John Nilsson, Senior Research Fellow for the Chatham House Northeast Asia, Asia Program, are the means to alert North Korea of “the costs of further provocations” and “the potential gains to be reali[z]ed through moderation.”[91] In line with Nilsson’s view, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis noted “we are never out of diplomatic solutions.”[92] On the other hand, for Trump, after the North Korea’s latest nuclear test, “all options are on the table.”[93]

In 1795, Kant furnished the idea that our objective is peace and that as the world evolves we are progressing towards it. If we aim to de-nuclearize North Korea through non-military means as Rice suggests, we can move one step closer to realizing that goal.

 

Meera Nayak is a staff editor on the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.

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[1] Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch 108 (1795).

[2] BBC, North Korea: What can the outside world do?, BBC (July 4, 2017), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39216803.

[3] BBC, North Korea crisis in 300 words, BBC (Sep. 5, 2017), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40871848.

[4] Dr. Nilsson-Wright, North Korea’s nuclear tests: How should Trump respond?, BBC (Sep. 3, 2017), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41143589.

[5] Chloe Sang-Hun, U.S. Confirms North Korea Fired Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, N.Y. Times (July 4, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/04/world/asia/north-korea-missile-test-icbm.html.

[6] David E. Sanger et al., North Korea Tests a Ballistic Missile That Experts Say Could Hit California, N.Y. Times (July 28, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/world/asia/north-korea-ballistic-missile.html.

[7] CNN, North Korea Nuclear Timeline Fast Facts, CNN (Sep. 4, 2017), http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/29/world/asia/north-korea-nuclear-timeline—fast-facts/index.html.

[8] Peter Baker & Chloe Sang-Hun, Trump Threatens ‘Fire and Fury’ Against North Korea if It Endangers U.S., N.Y. Times (Aug. 8, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/08/world/asia/north-korea-un-sanctions-nuclear-missile-united-nations.html.

[9] Chloe Sang-Hun, North Korea Says It Might Fire Missiles Into Waters Near Guam, N.Y. Times (Aug. 9, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/09/world/asia/north-korea-missiles-guam.html.

[10] Peter Baker, Trump Doubles Down on Threats Against North Korea as Nuclear Tensions Escalate, N.Y. Times (Aug. 10, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/world/asia/north-korea-trump.html.

[11] Peter Baker, Trump Says Military Is ‘Locked and Loaded’ and North Korea Will ‘Regret’ Threats, N.Y. Times (Aug. 11, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/11/world/asia/trump-north-korea-locked-and-loaded.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news.

[12] Chloe Sang-Hun & David E. Sanger, North Korea Fires Missile Over Japan, N.Y. Times (Aug. 28, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/world/asia/north-korea-missile.html.

[13] Arshad Mohammed & Phil Stewart, Trump may have to settle for deterring, not disarming, North Korea, REUTERS (Sep. 7, 2017), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles-deterrence/trump-may-have-to-settle-for-deterring-not-disarming-north-korea-idUSKCN1BI2RO.

[14] Scott Neuman, U.S. Says North Korea Is ‘Begging For War’, NPR (Sep. 4, 2017), http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/04/548461574/haley-north-korea-begging-for-war.

[15] Peter Baker & Rick Gladston, With Combative Style and Epithets, Trump Takes America First to the U.N., N.Y. Times (Sep. 19, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/world/trump-un-north-korea-iran.html.

[16] The New York Times, Full Text of Kim Jong-un’s Response to President Trump, N.Y. Times (Sep. 22, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/22/world/asia/kim-jong-un-trump.html.

[17] Peter Baker & David Sanger, Trump Says Tillerson Is ‘Wasting His Time’ on North Korea, N.Y. Times (Oct. 1, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/01/us/politics/trump-tillerson-north-korea.html.

[18] Al Jazeera, Trump on North Korea: ‘Only one thing will work,’ N.Y. Times (Oct. 7, 2017), http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/trump-north-korea-work-171008041543749.html.

[19] North Korea: Nuclear war may break out at ‘any moment,’ N.Y. Times (Oct. 16, 2017), http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/north-korea-nuclear-war-break-moment-171017034147416.html.

[20] Robin Stein & Drew Jordan, Can the U.S. Stop a North Korean Missile?, N.Y. Times (Aug. 27, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000005350585/us-missile-attack-defense.html.

[21] Id.

[22] William J. Broad et al., This Missile Could Reach California.But Can North Korea Use It With a Nuclear Weapon?, N.Y. Times (Sep. 3, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/22/world/asia/north-korea-nuclear-weapons.html?_r=0.

[23] Id.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Id.

[28] Geoff Brumfiel, Here Are The Facts About North Korea’s Nuclear Test, NPR (Sep. 3, 2017), http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/03/548262043/here-are-the-facts-about-north-koreas-nuclear-test.

[29] Stein & Jordan, supra note 20.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Id.

[33] Id.

[34] Max Fisher, Bad News, World: China Can’t Solve the North Korea Problem, N.Y. Times (Sep. 6, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/world/asia/china-north-korea-nuclear-problem.html?mtrref=www.nytimes.com.

[35] Id.

[36] Id.

[37] Id.

[38] Id.

[39] Id.

[40] Id.

[41] Chloe Sang-Hun, North Korea Says U.N. Sanctions Are Causing ‘Colossal’ Damage, N.Y. Times (Sep. 29, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/29/world/asia/north-korea-un-sanctions.html.

[42] Sang-Hun & Sanger, supra note 12.

[43] Id.

[44] Chloe Sang-Hun, South Korea Faces an Uncomfortable Reality: A Nuclear Neighbor, N.Y. Times (Aug. 21, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/21/world/asia/south-korea-north-nuclear-weapons.html.

[45] Id.

[46] Id.

[47] Id.

[48] Scott Neuman, Putin: North Korea Would ‘Eat Grass’ Before Giving Up Nukes, NPR (Sep. 5, 2017) http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/05/548676414/putin-north-korea-would-eat-grass-before-giving-up-nukes.

[49] Richard Gonzales, U.N. Security Council Approves New North Korea Sanctions, NPR (Sep. 11, 2017), http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/11/550301634/u-n-security-council-approves-new-north-korea-sanctions.

[50] Id.

[51] Neuman, supra note 14.

[52] REUTERS, Merkel suggests Iran-style nuclear talks to end North Korea crisis, REUTERS (Sep. 9, 2017), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles-germany/merkel-suggests-iran-style-nuclear-talks-to-end-north-korea-crisis-idUSKCN1BK0WU.

[53] Id.

[54] Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/npt/.

[55] Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Dec. 12, 1985, 729 U.N.T.S. 161 [hereinafter NPT].

[56] Id.

[57] Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Accession to Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (2003), http://disarmament.un.org/treaties/a/npt/democraticpeoplesrepublicofkorea/acc/moscow.

[58] Vienna Convention on the law of treaties art. 26, May 23, 1969, 1155 U.N.T.S. 311.

[59] Id.

[60] NPT, supra note 55, at art. X.

[61] Id.

[62] Id.

[63] Id.

[64] N.Y. Times, Full Text: North Korea’s Statement of Withdrawal, N.Y. Times (Jan. 10, 2003), http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/10/international/asia/full-text-north-koreas-statement-of-withdrawal.html.

[65] Id.

[66] Statute of the International Court of Justice art. 38(1)(c), Apr. 18, 1946, http://legal.un.org/avl/pdf/ha/sicj/icj_statute_e.pdf.

[67] Nuclear Tests (Austl. v. Fr.), Judgment, 1974 I.C.J. Rep. 253, (Dec. 20).

[68] Payment of Various Serbian Loans Issued in France (Fr. v. Yugo.), 1929 P.C.I.J. (ser. A) No. 20 (July 12).

[69] North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (Ger. v. Den.; Ger. v. Neth.), Judgment, 1969 I.C.J. Rep. 3, ¶ 71 (Feb. 20).

[70] Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germ. v. It.), Judgment, 2010 I.C.J. Rep. 310, ¶ 55 (July 6).

[71] North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (Ger. v. Den.; Ger. v. Neth.), Judgment, 1969 I.C.J. Rep. 3, ¶ 74 (Feb. 20).

[72] Micah Zenko, Toward Deeper Reductions in U.S. and Russian Nuclear Weapons, CFR (Nov. 2010), https://www.cfr.org/report/toward-deeper-reductions-us-and-russian-nuclear-weapons.

[73] Jill M. Sheldon, Nuclear Weapons and the Laws of War: Does Customary International Law Prohibit the Use of Nuclear Weapons in All Circumstances, 20 Fordham Int’l L. J. 181, 1996, at 248-49.

[74] Case Concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities In and Against Nicaragua (Nicar. v. U.S.), Judgment, 1986 I.C.J. Rep. 14, ¶ 188 (June 27).

[75] Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, United Nations Treaty Collection (July 7, 2017), https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXVI-9&chapter=26&clang=_en.

[76] Al Jazeera, Dozens of states sign treaty banning nuclear weapons, Al Jazeera (Sep. 20, 2017), http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/dozens-states-sign-treaty-banning-nuclear-weapons-170920160614985.html.

[77] McNab & Matthews, Clarifying the Law relating to Unmanned Drones and the Use of Force: The Relationships between Human Rights, Self-Defense, Armed Conflict, and International Humanitarian Law, 39 Denv. J. In’l L. & Pol’y 661, 2011, at 125.

[78] Id.

[79] Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I) art. 57(2)(a)(i), June 8, 1977, 1125 U.N.T.S. 3 [hereinafter Additional Protocol I].

[80] Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion, 1996 I.C.J. 226, ¶¶ 76-77 (July 8).

[81] Id. at ¶ 97.

[82] Gabrielle Blum, The Laws of War and the “Lesser Evil”, 35 Yale J. of Int’l L., 2010, at 25.

[83] U.N. Charter art. 2, ¶ 4.

[84] Ian Brownlie, Principles Of Public International Law 510-12 (7th ed. 2008).

[85] U.N. Charter, supra note 83, at art. 42, 51, 53.

[86] Susan E. Rice, It’s Not Too Late on North Korea, N.Y. Times (Aug. 10, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/opinion/susan-rice-trump-north-korea.html.

[87] Nilsson-Wright, supra note 4.

[88] Id.

[89] Rice, supra note 86.

[90] Id.

[91] Nilsson-Wright, supra note 4.

[92] Mohammed & Stewart, supra note 13.

[93] Colin Dwyer, ‘All Options Are On The Table': Unease Reigns After North Korean Missile Test, NPR (Aug. 29, 2017), http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/29/546992435/-all-options-are-on-the-table-unease-reigns-after-north-korean-missile-test.

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Does Iran’s Ballistic Missile Test Detonate the Nuclear Deal?

On October 10 Iran successfully test launched a new precision-guided ballistic missile. On Wednesday, Britain, France, the United States, and Germany addressed a letter to the United Nations Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee claiming that the test violated a Security Council resolution prohibiting Iran from nuclear capable missile testing. In the wake of this allegation, and the recent adoption of the nuclear deal forged between Iran and world powers, there is confusion as to what impact an affirmation of the allegation may have on the deal, and why Iran may have chosen to test now, at such a sensitive time.

The Facts

1028340053
October 10th launch of Iran’s Emad IRBM. Courtesy of IRINN news in Iran.

On July 14 Iran and world powers signed a ground-breaking deal to limit the ‘breakout time’ for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, in exchange for a reduction and eventual repeal of sanctions levied against the Islamic Republic. For decades, the UN Security Council has held strong to a policy of sanctioning Iran for actions it takes with respect to its nuclear program, a program which Iran has consistently claimed is intended only for peaceful purposes. This deal signals a strong shift by the UN, United States, and world powers in their approach to dealing with Iran, prioritizing direct negotiation and an incentives-based approach over sanctions. The world powers who signed the agreement with Iran include; The United States, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

Specific details on the October launch are sparse, but we do know that the missile, named the Emad (Pillar), is a surface-to-surface intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). The missile, precision-guided until it reaches the target, greatly enhances Iran’s medium-range precision strike capabilities because, as reported by Iran’s national news organization, the Emad is “capable of scrutinizing the targets and destroying them completely.” It has been reported that the missile is capable of complete accuracy within a 1,700km range, can carry a 750kg payload, and would be deployed in 2016. The State of Israel, which the leadership of Iran has vowed, but never attempted, to destroy, is within 1,700km range of Iranian territory. Israel and The United States are long-time allies. The tested missile was not loaded with a nuclear weapon, but a ballistic missile is the preferred delivery system for a nuclear warhead.

The letter addressed to the UN stated that the missile was “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon”, and that they hope the information will be used to “examine and take appropriate action in response to violations.”

The Laws

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 adopted in June 2010 prohibits Iran from “undertake[ing] any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons[,]” but the leadership in Iran has consistently, and successfully, rejected the enforceability of UN resolutions targeting its domestic activity.

UN Sec Council

Members of the Security Council vote at United Nations headquarters, Monday, July 20, 2015. The U.N. Security Council unanimously endorsed the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers and adopted a series of measures leading to the end of U.N. sanctions that have hurt the Iranian economy. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

 

 

Under the new deal, titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), world powers have agreed to lift sanctions which were implemented under Resolution 1929, and other resolutions, in exchange for Iran stepping themselves back from developing warhead capability. As a part of the JCPOA a timeline of stages has been set, the first, which began this week, includes a reduction of some sanctions and the beginning of monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the implementing document for the JCPOA in the United Nations, mandates that the next stage will begin on the ‘Transition Day’, eight years from Sunday. Annex V, Schedule D para. 19 conditions repeal of sanctions relating to the the international transfer of ballistic weapons to Iran on the completion of IAEA testing and the first phase of the agreement, or on the Transition Day, whichever comes first.

Additionally, while obfuscated by confounding language, the document does lay out a requirement similar to the language in Resolution 1929 prohibiting the development of nuclear ballistic missiles. Paragraph 3 of Annex B states that until the Transition Day, “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” The scope of Annex B of Resolution 2231, titled “Statements”, is comprised of additional provisions set forth by each of the signatory world powers which must be met to in order to facilitate complete “implementation of the JCPOA.” Paragraph 3 does allow for an earlier reduction in ballistic weapon sanctions, contingent on an IAEA report that suggests Iran has fully complied with the nuclear capability reduction requirements of the JCPOA prior to the deadline, but the United States has a veto on any proposed early repeal. It should be noted that nothing in the JCPOA or Resolution 2231 explicitly dictates what actions taken by Iran prior to the date of Adoption would violate the agreement, or what force a new violation of Resolution 1929 would have on the implementation of the JCPOA during the 90 days between execution and Adoption.

Analysis

First, referenced above, the launch occurred on October 10, after the execution of the JCPOA but prior to the Adoption Day of Resolution 2231 in the UN. Therefore, it may be argued that the JCPOA and 2231 do not apply. This leads to an interesting analysis, because the penalty for violation of a provision in Resolution 1929 would be economic sanctions, which Iran has consistently ignored and which 2231 is designed to reduce in exchange for cooperation from Iran regarding all facets of their nuclear agreement, which includes nuclear ballistic missile development. It seems, from this perspective, that Iran may have been attempting to get in “one last shot” before the JCPOA is implemented. It had no direct incentive not to do so and knew that the international community would have little recourse in the way of remedy or penalty.

On the other hand, when Iran launched they were fully aware of the imminence of the adoption of the agreement they had signed, and therefore their actions may also be judged by whether they comply with the JCPOA. The preamble to the JCPOA states that the parties to the agreement “commit to implement this JCPOA in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter, spirit and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation.” It does not seem that a test launch weeks before Adoption would be in the ‘letter, spirit and intent’ of the deal. The launch did, however, occur just days before Ayatolla Khomeini’s official acceptance on the part of the Islamic Republic, possibly timed as to preempt any consequence under the JCPOA.

Second, there is an important difference in the language of the two resolutions prohibiting Iran from developing nuclear capable ballistic missiles. Resolution 1929 requires that Iran refrain from any activity related to ballistic missiles “capable of delivering [nukes]”, while 2231 prohibits any activity related to ballistic missiles “designed to be capable of delivering [nukes.]” Interestingly enough, when asked to comment, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “none of [Iran’s] missiles has been designed for a nuclear capability”, echoing the less restrictive language of 2231. The argument purported by the US and EU powers in the letter to the Iran Committee said that the missile was “inherently capable” of delivering nukes, focusing on the language of 1929.

Therefore, it seems that the United States claims that all ballistic missiles, whether ‘designed’ for nuclear capability or not, are “capable” of carrying a nuclear weapon, and therefore must fall under the provision as stated in 1929. Does this mean that the US claims that because the launch occurred prior to the Adoption Day of the JCPOA, Resolution 1929, which does not require ‘direction’ and therefore has a lower burden of proof, should be the controlling law? It is unclear whether the administration noticed the difference in the language when adopting their statement, or whether it thought the public would notice. Even if 1929 is the controlling law, the enforcement mechanisms in 1929 were not only ineffective when they were drafted, but are especially ineffective now, since they are in the process of being removed as a part of the JCPOA.

The Iranians, on the other hand, argue that they never conducted activity on missiles ‘designed’ to be nuclear capable, and therefore are not in violation of the provision, even though the test occurred prior to the Adoption Day. The official Iranian statement on the launch echoes the language in the JCPOA, and not that of 1929. The Iranian government has made no comment on whether, since they prefer to define the terms of their actions based on the JCPOA, they consider the launch to be within the ‘letter, spirit and intent’ of deal, as required by the preamble of the agreement. To sum it up, the US prefers the language of the old Security Council resolution, which is more inclusive but has no enforceability, whereas the Iranians defend their actions using the language of the JCPOA, which should be found not to include tests like the one on Oct 10, but if it was, would truly destroy the progress made to reach this deal.

Why Now?

Khomeni
Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei 2015.

Based on the above analysis, it seems that neither the United States nor the Iranians want this launch, or any subsequent investigation, to detonate the landmark deal. Even so, neither is backing down. White House spokesperson Josh Earnest stated that while the administration was investigating the launch, that the test was “separate from the JCPOA” and did not violate the agreement. While no credible analysts believe that Iran’s ballistic missile program is for peaceful means, non-nuclear capable missile development is not prohibited by the JCPOA. So whether this missile is found to be nuclear capable or not, it has the potential to destabilize, but not detonate, the nascent trust between Iran and world powers. It is a wonder why, then, when the Ayatollah has come out in support of the deal, would he make such a bold, instigating, and seemingly benefit-less choice to launch?

In his effortless brilliance, Thomas Friedman, economist and columnist for the New York Times, may have inadvertently provided the answer almost a month before the launch. In his NY Times column dated September 16, ‘Iran Deal Players’ Report Cards’, Friedman grades all of the actors in the deal and gives the Ayatollah an “A”.  He explains that throughout the process, the Supreme Leader had been clever, acting to make himself domestically popular by “cheating” Iran’s way out of the “crippling sanctions, which his people want,” while all the while “giving his hard-line base the feeling that he’s still actually against this deal and his negotiators the feeling that he’s for it.”

While Friedman does end with a humorous reference to lessons the Ayatollah will learn in relation to the imminent domestic democratic transition in Iran, a-la Mikhail Gorbachev, he does also make a poignant parallel to the launch. He reminds us that just a week before the September 17 deadline for the US Senate to block American acceptance of the resolution, the Ayatollah made an ill-timed public statement predicting that Israel “won’t be around in 25 years[.]” This statement was clearly referencing a period of time within which Iran could successfully overcome the effects of the international sanctions and restrictions on its nuclear program by the JCPOA, and develop an actionable nuclear weapon. The statement eruditely left Iran’s direct participation in the destruction of the State of Israel to inference, but was timed specifically to instigate the right-wing in the US Senate and the Israeli government. A simple analogy is made from the statement to the launch of the missile, timed just a week before the Adoption of the JCPOA.

In the end, it is clear that none of the European powers, the US, UN, or Iran want to allow this launch, even if found to be of a missile ‘designed to be nuclear capable’, to destroy the hard-fought nuclear deal. Was the Ayatollah intentionally attempting to derail the agreement? Could he have just been catering to his conservative base by showing that any concessions he makes to support the deal will be in protest? Did he launch to send a little reminder to Israel before allowing his nuclear program to lay dormant?

Clearly, the future of peace and security in the region is too important to risk over a single missile launch. Only time will tell if any lasting effect will result from launch. It is unlikely that any action will be taken by the Security Council to reprimand Iran for launching, because this could cause a rift in the already tenuous partnership. As to the Ayatollah’s intentions? This author hopes that the launch was mere Putin-esq political puffery, destined to be relegated to the history books as the defining record of the most deadly weapon that Iran ever developed, never to be exceeded.

Jeremy S Goldstein is a 3L at the University of Denver – Sturm College of Law and the Online Editor-in-Chief of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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iran nuclear agreement negotiators

The Interim Iranian Nuclear Deal: Enforcement and a Right to Enrichment

On January 20, 2014, an interim agreement over Iran’s nuclear program will go into effect. The agreement is a compromise between Iran and major Western powers reached on November 24, 2013. The terms of the agreement provide that Iran will scale back activities under its nuclear program, but not dismantle it entirely. This compromise has prompted criticism that the agreement will not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, begging the questions, is there an international right to enrichment, and will enforcement of this agreement be adequate?

iran nuclear agreement negotiators

Representatives from France, Britain, U.S., and Jordan in Paris (Thierry Gesnot/Getty Images)

The agreement itself contains no explicit recognition of Tehran’s right to enrichment. While Iranian news proclaimed that it did recognize such a right, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that it did not. The question then turns on an interpretation of Article IV of the U.N. Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which Iran signed in 1968. It states, in part, that “[n]othing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination….” Many countries have read this to create a right to enrichment, whereas the U.S. has taken the position that each case should be considered individually. This view is not in alignment with the other parties to the treaty. Moreover, the U.S. does not have authority to interpret the agreement unilaterally without ratification by other parties to the treaty.

The other question raised following the announcement of the interim agreement was the means of enforcement and the consequences for Iran breaching the terms. Some of the International economic sanctions on Iran will be lifted as part of the agreement, and U.S. President Barack Obama said that the U.S. would give “modest relief” on sanctions on Iran, but would increase sanctions if Iran reneged on the deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] will play a central role in verifying that the terms are met. Reuters reported the IAEA as saying that there will be “…a significant increase in the frequency of inspections in Iran, access to more sites in the country, a need for more equipment and more analytical work….” The additional cost will come to around 6 million euros. The IAEA requested 5.5 million euros from its 160 member states to voluntarily help cover the expenses. The parties to the interim nuclear agreement are confident that the additional inspections and economic consequences of sanctions for the oil-dependent Iran will be sufficient to prevent the development of nuclear weapons.

Despite the criticism surrounding the agreement, most notably from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it remains a six-month interim agreement intended to provide additional time for negotiations to a final settlement in the decade-old nuclear dispute. The next few months will help elucidate Iran’s motivation for enrichment and any right that exists thereof. But perhaps it would also be beneficial to revisit the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Nuclear energy is no longer the golden child of clean energy when considering the progress of alternatives like solar, wind and hydro. The U.N. could consider clarifying Article IV to narrow the permissible scope of research and production of nuclear energy in recognition of its limited potential and substantial risk.

It is possible that Iran’s nuclear activities are politically motivated and its insistence on a right to enrichment is rooted in principle. Regardless, diplomacy prevailed, and the path to a permanent agreement has been established. To quote a statement from the White House:

[W]e have made concrete progress. I welcome this important step forward, and we will now focus on the critical work of pursuing a comprehensive resolution that addresses our concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Alex Milgroom is a 3L at the University of Denver and the Online Editor-in-Chief of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Kim Jong-un

North Korea Undeterred by U.N. Sanctions

On April 15, 2013, North Korea celebrated the 101st birthday of its founding leader, Kim Il Sung.   The day was filled with flowers to honor both its founder and current leader, Kim Jong Un; however, North Korea did not take a reprieve from threatening South Korea and the United Nations.  From Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, the KCNA reported that “[o]ur retaliatory action will start without any notice from now.”   Pyongyang’s comments were directed at South Korea’s protest to the celebrations.

Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong Un, Flexing His Muscles
(NPR)

This is the latest in a long line of threats North Korea has directed at the United Nations and its member countries.  Just a few days ago, Pyongyang threatened that “Japan is always in the cross-hairs of our revolutionary army and if Japan makes a slightest move, the spark of war will touch Japan first.”  North Korea warned that Tokyo would be the first city targeted for a nuclear strike.

While North Korea continues to threaten the United Nations, member countries Japan and the United States remain positive that a peaceful resolution can be reached through talks.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the regime in North Korea to stop its nuclear program and hold talks with the United States and Japan.  In response, the KCNA cited North Korea’s military leaders, stating, “If the puppet authorities truly want dialogue and negotiations, they should apologize for all anti-DPRK hostile acts, big and small, and show the compatriots their will to stop all these acts.”   Although North Korea’s media continues to insult and disregard the United Nations, many believe that talks are still a possibility and a resolution can be reached.

However, this has not prevented South Korea and the United Nations from readying for a possible North Korean attack.  South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said South Korea was closely monitoring North Korea’s moves and was ready for any attack.  The North’s threat is “regrettable,” Kim told reporters. “We will thoroughly and resolutely punish North Korea if it launches any provocation for whatever reason.”  Japan, too, launched fighters to protect its capital from the threat issued by Pyongyang.

Regardless, the current United Nations strategy against North Korea continues to have little impact.  Threats and sanctions issued by the United Nations have been met with open hostility by North Korea, resulting in its third nuclear test and continued military preparations by Pyongyang.  Many initially hoped that new sanctions would “bite, and bite hard” against North Korea, but the sanctions continue to have little effect.  Some are beginning to believe that the reality of the situation appears to be different. Chang Yong-seok, at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, believes “The ultimatum is just North Korea’s way of saying that it’s not willing or ready to talk with the South. North Korea apparently wants to keep the cross-border relations tense for some time to come.”

While the United Nations and its member countries continue to wish for a peaceful resolution with North Korea, it appears that peace may be a long way off.

Brad Bossenbroek is a third year law student at the Sturm College of Law, an editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, and a Publishing Editor for The View From Above.

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Critical Analysis: What’s up with North Korea?

University students punch the air as they march through Kim Il Sung Square in downtown Pyongyang, North Korea (BBC)

University students punch the air as they march through Kim Il Sung Square in downtown Pyongyang, North Korea (BBC)

Since being sanctioned by the UN in March for carrying out a third nuclear test, Pyongyang has threatened nuclear strikes on the US, formally declared war on the South, and pledged to reopen a nuclear reactor in blatant defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

On Friday, North Korea warned it would not be able to guarantee the safety of foreign embassy staff if war broke out. But not a single country seems to be taking this threat seriously. Foreign embassies in the capital of Pyongyang appear to be staying put so far despite a warning. Russia is considering the request seriously. However, the British have brushed it off, considering the threat “part of a campaign of continued rhetoric” and asserting that North Korea is insinuating that it is making the request because the US poses a threat to North Korea.

Is war on the horizon?

General Walter Sharp, who until last year was the commander of US forces in Korea, explained the escalation problem to NPR.  The “counterprovocation” plan, that the US intends to invoke if the North Koreans launch even a limited artillery attack on South Korea, authorizes the South Koreans to fire back immediately. As defensive plan, at the root it is an “if you are fired at, fire back.” But this could easily mean war. U.S. officials say the counterprovocation plan and the U.S. flexing its muscles send three strong messages: the South Koreans see that the U.S. military is standing behind them; the North Koreans find out what they’d face were they to start something; and China sees how high the stakes are and why it may need to rein North Korea in.

Furthermore, the Pentagon decided to delay an intercontinental ballistic missile test that was scheduled for next week at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, for fear that it would only intensify the tensions between the US and North Korea. North Korea has become angered by the military exercises that the US and South Korea are doing. These exercises demonstrate potential power the two allies have to strike back: B-2 bombers and F-22 fighters, and ballistic missile defense-capable warships.  But while the US is taking the threats seriously, leaders continue to say that there are no obvious signs that North Korea is planning for a large-scale attack.

Does North Korea have any support internationally?

Even China, North Korea’s longtime ally, is speaking critically of North Korea’s recent activities. “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping at an economic forum in Hainan province. Avoiding mentioning North Korea by name, Xi said, “[w]hile pursuing its own interests, a country should accommodate the legitimate interests of others.”

Chinese officials who value stability above all else will probably not abandon North Korea altogether during these tensions. But seeing an opportunity amid Chinese frustrations, the Obama administration is attempting to push Beijing to take a much stronger stance against the renegade country than it has in the past. China is tightening its stance; it wants dialogue to ease tensions, not war.

Mimi Faller is a 2L at DU Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Are Current U.N. Sanctions Insufficient to Deter North Korea’s Nuclear Proliferation?

2013 Nuclear Test

While the exact details remain unknown, on February 13, 2013, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test since 2010.  Early morning reports of February 13 included a large seismic event located near a prior North Korean underground nuclear test site.  Following this report, the Korean Central News Agency released a government statement confirming the nuclear test and reassuring the Korean people “that the nuclear test that was carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturised and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment.”

North Korean Nuclear Weapons

Parading this through downtown Pyongyang may not be the best way to win friends and influence others.
(Telegraph)

Immediate international concern followed.  Regarding North Korea’s nuclear test, President Obama of the United States said “[t]his is a highly provocative act that threatens regional stability, breaches U.N. resolutions and increases the risk of proliferation, calling for ‘further swift and credible action by the international community.”  Almost immediately, the United Nations contemplated additional sanctions, leading to North Korea condemning the international community, threatening to end the cease fire between North and South Korea and threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the U.S.

In response, the 15-member U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on March 10 against North Korea imposing additional sanctions. These sanctions strengthened the prior 2006 Security Council Resolution issued by the U.N. in response to North Korea’s first missile test, asserting banking, trade, and travel constraints against North Korea.

North Korea is no stranger to disregarding U.N. threats and continuing its nuclear testing.  On three prior occasions, North Korea has conducted nuclear tests.  Following each event, the U.N. issued three separate resolutions in 2006, 2009, and 2010.  Thus, the question becomes what U.N. action will sufficiently deter North Korea and, hopefully, bring at least a little more cooperation between the international community and North Korea?

The 2006, 2009, and 2010 Nuclear Tests

Prior resolutions against North Korea have been unsuccessful.  The 2006 resolution states that the Security Council “[d]ecides that the DPRK shall suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching.”  Comparatively, the 2009 resolution reiterates that the Security Council “[d]ecides that the DPRK shall abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner and immediately cease all related activities.”  Obviously, such U.N. “decisions” pose little threat or effect to North Korea, a non-member country of the U.N, because North Korea follows such measures by additional nuclear testing.

While the United Nations and its member countries remain hopeful of change, North Korea appears to be un-persuaded.  Mr. Choi, representative for South Korea, speaking in 2006, “urge[d] North Korea to heed carefully the united voice of the international community and to refrain from any action that would further aggravate the situation on the Korean peninsula.  North Korea should return immediately to the Six-Party Talks without any preconditions.  North Korea should abandon its nuclear weapons and missile programmes once and for all.”  However, as seen, North Korea ignored the hopes of the South Koreans by conducting additional missile tests in 2009, 2010, and now most recently, 2013.  If nuclear testing by North Korea bears such a threat to the peace of the international community, would harsher sanctions provide a reprieve?

Ineffectiveness of Current Economic Sanctions

The U.N. is able to provide broader sanctions, including military action, under its charter.  The U.N. Security Council’s authority vests in Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter.  Under Chapter VII, Article 39, the Security Council has such right to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.”  Article 41 provides lesser economic sanctions which “may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.”  Article 42 grants greater military authority “should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.”  Thus, if necessary, the U.N. may order military action against North Korea.

U.N. Security Council

What sanctions to impose today?
(Hurriyet Daily News)

The lack of effectiveness of economic action under Article 41 is apparent in North Korea’s continued nuclear testing.  One problem with the imposition of economic sanctions against North Korea is that they are enacted and enforced weakly.  Orde F. Kittrie, associate professor of law at Arizona State University, finds that U.N. nuclear sanctions pose one of four goals: (1) coercing a change in target behavior, (2) reducing or containing target ability to implement policies, (3) deterring other actors contemplating the same behavior, and (4) future possible sanctions.  While Kittrie notes that such tactics have been successful regarding nuclear proliferation in Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, and Haiti, sanctions against North Korea proved insufficient in 2006.  Sanctions depriving North Korea of travel and luxury goods provide little deterrence for nuclear testing and are merely an annoyance for an area known as the “Hermit Kingdom.”[1]  As such, weak economic sanctions pose little threat to North Korea, providing little deterrence in terms of nuclear testing.

Some U.S. and U.N officials believe that new sanctions imposed in 2013 will “bite, and bite hard” against North Korea, regardless of past sanctions showing little impact.  However, many others see the same problems of the 2006 sanctions occurring in the 2013 sanctions.  While the 2013 sanctions make funneling cash more difficult, these sanctions also embargo the similar sale of high-end luxury goods including “yachts and jewelry.”  Nor do the 2013 sanctions prevent China from providing food, energy assistance and investment, as Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute notes.  As Kittrie previously said in her 2007 article, these types of economic sanctions appear to provide more of an annoyance, rather than deterrence.

Additionally, economic sanctions may simply be ineffective against North Korea’s political and economic ideologies.  North Korea has long suffered from food shortages and economic struggles, leading to self-reliance rather than international trade.  Luxury items are discouraged and seen as harmful to human development.  Thus, economic sanctions have little deterrence against the economically self-reliant North Korea.[2]

While it remains to be seen if the 2013 sanctions will effectively deter North Korea from persisting in nuclear testing, it is also questionable whether harsher restrictions should be placed against North Korea.  As U.N. Charter Articles 41 and 42 state, the U.N. Security Council possesses stronger authority to deter North Korea than its current economic sanctions.  However, current sanctions seem to have only made relations worse between North Korea and the international community, while resulting in little deterrence.  Most importantly, the implementation of current U.N. sanctions has not only led to threats by North Korea, but North Korea’s abrogation of “all agreements on non-aggression reached between the North and the South.”  Lawmakers such as Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., maintain that increasing “North Korea’s isolation” through sanctions is the best option; however, past experience indicates the ineffectiveness of this approach.  Rather, it appears that such isolation techniques have led to an increase in nuclear testing and a decrease in communication between the international community and North Korea.

Conclusion

While it remains to be seen whether the 2013 sanctions against North Korea will effectively deter nuclear testing, the past indicates that these sanctions will not.  The 2013 sanctions have already led to substantial ill-will between North Korea and the international community and little indication that North Korea will cease testing.  As such, the question remains of whether the answer is for the U.N. to invoke harsher sanctions, including potential military action under Article 42, or whether a different approach would lead to better results.

Brad Bossenbroek is a third year law student at the Sturm College of Law, an editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, and a Publishing Editor for The View From Above.


[1] Orde F. Kittrie, Adverting Catastrophe: Why the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty is Losing its Deterrence Capacity and How to Restore it, 28 Mich. J. Int’l L. 337, 355-80 (2007).

[2] Karen M. Takishita, Economic Sanctions Against North Korea: An Unsuccessful and Sanctimonious Policy Ripe for Modification, 14 Pac. Rim L. & Pol’y J. 515, 530-33 (2005).

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Critical Analysis: Eccentric 90’s American Basketball Player Attempts Diplomacy – Korean War Reignites

 

Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un talk Basketball Diplomacy court-side. (The Sun)

Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un talk Basketball Diplomacy court-side. (The Sun)

Late last month, Dennis Rodman traveled to North Korea to try his hand at unsanctioned “Basketball Diplomacy.”  More famous for his antics off the court, Rodman was a power forward for, among several other teams, the 1995 – 1998 championship winning Chicago Bulls.  Modeled after the ping pong diplomacy that the United States and China engaged in during the 1970s, Rodman and several other basketball players traveled to North Korea for an exhibition basketball game.  Rodman watched the game court side with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.  Thought to be North Korea’s first leader to support the United States, Rodman and Kim Jong-un shared laughs during the game and also at a party afterwards.  Despite not being designated an official envoy by the United States, Rodman was able to bring back a message for United States President, Barack Obama: “Kim Jong-un wants [you] to call him.”

Despite his efforts, Rodman was not able to quell the ongoing tensions between the United States and Korea.  Days after the basketball match in Pyongyang, the United States and South Korea engaged in annual joint military exercises.  In response, North Korea cut communications with South Korea and rescinded its cease-fire agreement with the United States and South Korea, signed in 1953.  Adding fuel to the fire, the UN has increased sanctions to North Korea, effectively keeping North Korea’s rich from buying yachts and sports cars, a move North Korea has vowed to retaliate against with nuclear weapons.

Although hostilities have thankfully not re-started following North Korea’s withdraw from the cease-fire agreement, tensions are on the rise.  North Korea has finally had a successful test of a long-range missile and has renewed threats to use nuclear weapons against South Korea.  In response, the United States has pledged to upgrade their missile defense system, effectively negating North Korea’s new-found capabilities.  Whether or not one or both sides are posturing remains to be seen, since China has yet to weigh in on the issue in its current state.

That outlines the current stalemate.  Dennis Rodman flew to North Korea to sit with Kim Jong-un and watch basketball.  Rodman’s suave diplomacy skills uncovered Kim Jong-un’s deep seeded desire to just have a seat at the table with a personal invitation from President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, the world waits with bated breath to see whether China will permit the United States to increase missile defense, rendering not only North Koreans missiles ineffective, but Chinese missiles as well.  

Tom Dunlop is a 2L at Denver University Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Division in Iranian Leadership

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to the crowd at the conclusion of his speech in Tehran, Iran. (Washington Post)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves to the crowd at the conclusion of his speech in Tehran, Iran. (Washington Post)

Some argue that the West is continually trying to find ways to contain Iran and their believed attempt to acquire nuclear weapons. Recent infighting shows that the country’s leadership may be splintering leading to a fissure in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Do these public confrontations present an opportunity for the West to find workable solutions to this issue?

The Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is finding himself in new territory, wading into the internal political battles of Iran. Khamenei has been forced to respond to the ever more confrontational President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This conflict began in 2011 when Ahmadinejad challenged Khamenei over the appointment of a high-ranking intelligence ministry post. Since, Ahmadenejad has taken several other opportunities to raise tension between himself and the Supreme Leader, forcing several of Ahmadinejad’s political allies off the upcoming ballot. However, it seems that a significant majority of lawmakers are still loyal to Khamenei.

This conflict comes out of a contentious session of parliament. This session included several instances where Ahmadinejad and Iran’s legislative body frequently feuded publicly. This included the impeachment of the President’s labor minister. Also, Ahmadinejad accused a judiciary chief, and appointee of the Supreme Leader, of bribery. These public riffs come ahead of the June presidential election that will elect Ahmadinejad’s successor. Throughout this spat, Khamenei has called for calm, especially against the pressure of economic sanctions from the West.

This infighting comes in the face of renewed effort from the West in regards to Iran’s nuclear program. Last week Iran rejected negotiations with the United States. Khamenei proclaimed that if Iran wanted to build nuclear weapons, no country could stop them. The Supreme Leader insisted that before any negotiations will occur, the West must lift all sanctions because Iran will not surrender. After addressing the recent offer to negotiate, Khamenei transitioned into criticizing Ahmadinejad and the speaker of the Parliament.

There seems to be a split between the two most powerful men in Iran. Is now the time that the West may be able to leverage the divided leadership in order to reign in Iran?

 Wesley Fry is a 3L and Managing Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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News Post: U.S., Russia try to Dissuade Israel from Preemptive Strike on Iran

In recent months, tensions between Israel and Iran have been on the rise and speculation has been growing that Israel may attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (The Inquisitr)

Although Iran says its nuclear program is meant to develop energy, it has refused to negotiate guarantees that the program is peaceful, giving rise to security concerns – particularly in Israel, where leaders think that Iran’s nuclear program is a threat to the continued existence of Israel.  Recently, discussion in both the U.S. and Israel has turned to the issue of whether an Israeli strike can do enough damage to the Iranian program to be worth the risks.

Military analysts at the Pentagon say that an Israeli attack meant to setback Iran’s nuclear program would be a highly complex operation.   Michael V. Hayden, prior CIA director from 2006 to 2009, said that “airstrikes capable of seriously setting back Iran’s nuclear program were ‘beyond the capacity’ of Israel’” However, military analysts have also said that if the United States decides to get involved, it has the military power to effectuate an attack of the scale desired by Israel.

Last week, America’s top intelligence official told a senate committee that a successful bombing of Israel may set Iran’s nuclear development program back by one or two years at most. Most experts agree that Iran now possesses so much technological information that no air campaign could destroy its ability to someday produce a nuclear weapon. Both the United States and Russia have advised against a preemptive attack on Iran, but Israeli’s foreign minister has said that the state will not give in to pressure in deciding whether to attack Iran.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged in a recent television interview that Israel and the U.S. have divergent views on the best course of action on Iran. “I’m confident that (Israel’s leaders) understand our concerns that a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives,” Dempsey told CNN. However, Dempsey did not go so far as to say that the U.S. has persuaded the Israelis that it was best not to attack Iran.  The White House has said that it believes the intense punitive sanctions imposed on Iran have had some impact and that there is still time for a peaceful resolution to be reached.  Even so, many in the U.S. fear that Israel will act unilaterally, and that the United States will be sucked into finishing the job.  Others believe that increased U.S. involvement in the Middle-East will cause an increase in oil prices and endanger Obama’s reelection campaign.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

If Iran is Nuclear, What Could (and Should) We Do?

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The International Atomic Energy Agency plans to release an updated report on Iran, in which the Agency is expected to announce its belief that Iran has now mastered the critical steps that would allow it to build a nuclear weapon.  The report allegedly also says there is no evidence that Iran has decided to build nuclear weapons, and Iran has always maintained that it only maintains a peaceful nuclear energy program.  The United States is not alone, however, in asking why Iran would acquire the materials and technology necessary to build nuclear weapons if it did not intend to do so.

The prospect of a nuclear Iran is often viewed as a destabilizing factor in an already unstable region.  Israel and Iran have a history of negative interactions regarding this issue, including Israel’s 1981 use of bombers to destroy an Iranian nuclear reactor before it could come online.  Other Arab states have supported efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the Washington Post even describes the opposition to an Iranian nuclear program as a rare source of common ground between Israelis and Arabs.

If Iran has nuclear capabilities and those capabilities are generally regarded as dangerous, the inevitable question becomes what, if anything, we should do about it.  The international community has imposed UN-backed sanctions since 2006, and the United States has imposed its own unilateral sanctions on Iran for nearly three decades.  China and Russia have resisted a fourth round of international sanctions on Iran, and though Russia’s position may be softening, China remains opposed to the idea, largely because it views further sanctions as wasted effort.

The seeming failure of the sanctions regime has led some to suggest that only the threat of force will lead to any real change.  Considering the other instability in the region, however, one has to wonder whether threats of further military campaigns would escalate an already tense situation.  The United States has been pursuing a dual-track approach that includes a combination of sanctions and incentives.

The BBC suggests that more diplomacy is the route to take, though that may just be because there is little support for military intervention in this political climate.  Meanwhile, a recent New Yorker article recommends containment through a combination of political, diplomatic, and military actions.  One could expect such containment to include tougher economic sanctions, military posturing (particularly from Israel), and diplomatic pressure.

In light of the limited success any of these policies is likely to have, are any of these actions worth the risk?  In the wake of the Arab Spring, is there a point at which a nuclear Iran, already feeling surrounded by military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, will decide it has nothing else to lose?

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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